I've been meaning to write this article for a while, but I've been busy...doing stuff. It has been sitting in the drafts folder of my phone alongside songs I've been meaning to look up and a list of degrees I've been meaning to look into, recipes I haven't yet made and places I should have visited months ago. I'm starting to think the drafts folder is where ideas go to die.
If you've ever met one of those people who's constantly starting sentences with "hey, we should totally –" or "one day I'm going to – " then you've got a pretty good idea of what I'm like. I'm a serial planner. An ideas girl, I like to think. What I lack is a kick up the proverbial to get me out of the door and on my bike (which I haven't yet bought) to make all of these plans finally happen.
Have you ever noticed how as you age, the important questions change? When you're young, you define yourself by how old you are, proudly displaying five fingers splayed wide in a demonstration of your longevity and identity. As you get older the question changes – "what do you want to be when you grow up?" If we are to believe children's media the answer ought to be 'fireman' or 'ballerina' depending on your gender. I took a stab at 'the pope' a few times (who could resist that hat), but lacking the requisite genitals – not to mention religious adherence – my dream quickly deflated into the more achievable 'I'm going to marry a farmer'. Oh, how the suffragettes turn in their graves.
Unless your experience or studies have furnished you with a specific and commercially useful skill-set, it can be difficult to know what to do with the rest of your calendar. With, as Linda Ellis would have it, 'the dash between those years'. Step one, then, is figuring out exactly that. Ask yourself the three big questions...
Rodin's 'The Thinker'. Image source wikimedia commons
What do you love? What do you do in those wonderful moments of temporal absence – on a long train ride, or sitting in a waiting room? What does your mind turn to when you're not focussed on the daily grind? Answer honestly; do you think of conversations? Travelling? Do you imagine yourself planning events, or meeting Bieber? Do you love spending time with your immediate family, or do you look forward to large parties? Do you get really excited about trees, or magnets, or weddings? Whatever it is you love, write it down. Also consider what you loved when you were a kid. What did you do in 'free time' at school? What were your hobbies as a child? Chances are some of your answers here will overlap into the next question...
What are you good at? Oh shut up, of course you are good at something. Lots of things, probably. And stop thinking of typical 'workplace' things – write down all of it. When do you jump up to help people? When do you feel confident? What speech topic would you be great at presenting? If you were part of a group of people assigned to the task of building an aeroplane, would you be painting the tail design, or planning the mechanics? Or would you – like me – be running around telling people what to do, offering (unsolicited) advice and making cups of tea? Are you awesome at explaining things, or fantastic at making people feel comfortable in new situations? Do you get a kick out of tidying the house, playing a sport, or directing a dance troupe? When are you in your element?
How can you make this useful? This is the big one. An old lecturer of mine once spoke about finding commercial viability in what you love. It's not a bastardisation of your passions – it's necessary realism. Unless your hobbies can pay the rent they will always be hobbies, and 38-50 hours a week you'll be doing something else that you don't love, just for the sake of getting food in your belly so you can wake up for another day of doing it all again. You need to make them commercially viable, that is, in some way useful to other people. Don't worry if this takes you days, months – sometimes even a lifetime to figure out, have a good crack at getting an answer. How can you combine what you love, and what you're good at, in a way that is useful to others?
Finding your dream career
There are some roles you won't be finding through job searches... Image from wikimedia commons.
Okay, now that you know what you want, it's time to make it work. The first thing you need to do is collect more information, or possibly go back to school/Uni/TAFE for higher education. Talk to people in the industry about how they got there. Talk to everyone you can – knowledge is power, after all. Do some relevant job searches and read the descriptions. Find the industry leaders and use Google and LinkedIn to trace their career paths. Go confidently forward, knowing you've got some substantial information backing you up.
As well as Seek, there are a variety of ways you can find an open door to the career of your dreams. CareerOne is popular, as well as niche job sites such as The Loop for creative people, or Executives Only for specialised executive roles. Consider joining networking sites such as LinkedIn, as many companies like to scope out the background of their applicants, or find new employees through mutual connections and recommendations.
If you're embarking on an entrepreneurial project, consider crowd funding, or take the time to look into the extensive array of government and private grants available. You can also use LinkedIn or in some cases even Gumtree to find a paid role or gain some experience through volunteering.